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Hundreds of Hall residents could lose food stamps as economy improves
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To learn about the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services job training programs, visit http://dfcs.dhs.georgia.gov/about-ets, or contact the Education and Training Services Section at 404-657-5153.

Food stamp recipients can receive free assistance with their claims at the Gainesville regional office of the Georgia Legal Services Program, 705 Washington St., Suite B-1. Call 770-535-5717 for more information.

With a jobless rate of just 4.3 percent, the strength of Hall County’s economy means some local residents could lose access to food stamps come April.

Georgia is reinstating a work requirement that limits able-bodied adults with no dependents to just three months of food assistance within a three-year period.

According to the state Division of Family and Children Services, 529 food stamp recipients in Hall are on the chopping block if they do not contact the agency to report that they are working at least 20 hours a week or plan to enroll in a job training program.

That’s a small slice of the nearly 7,500 households in Hall that collected food stamps in 2014, according to census figures.

But it’s also a demographic that has an average income of just 17 percent of the poverty line and typically qualifies for no additional welfare assistance, according to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

"I'm all for preventing abuse of a public 'safety net,' but I do wonder how this will affect otherwise able-bodied people that have dropped out of the workforce because of mental health issues or to be a family caregiver, for instance," Tim Evans, vice president of economic development at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said. "There are clearly people with needs in our community."

The median income for local food stamp recipients is $23,401, and they receive an average of $190 a month in assistance.

There are about 1.8 million recipients across Georgia, and about 111,000 are considered able-bodied.

Another 5,500 or more recipients in Gwinnett and Cobb counties now also face the work requirement, which came out of federal welfare reform legislation in the 1990s.

The requirement was lifted during the economic recession, but 23 states are reinstating it this year in regions where unemployment is lowest.

Between 500,000 and 1 million recipients nationwide, with an average monthly benefit allowance of between $150 and $170, could lose their food stamps as a result, the CBPP reports.

“We have not seen any cases yet, but I am sure we will within the next month,” Wendy Glasbrenner, managing attorney for the Gainesville regional office of the Georgia Legal Services Program, a nonprofit law firm that provides free services to low-income residents. “We stand ready to represent folks who receive these notices.”

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